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Review of Medicine at the Hope Theatre

Medicine written by Meghan Tyler
Medicine: written by Meghan Tyler – Photographer Alex Fine

The thrust stage of small but perfectly formed Hope Theatre in Islington contains a park bench and a large handbag in middle of the floor – about as minimal a set as you can get. The lights dim and two women enter – Moira-Bridget Byrne (played by Meghan Tyler) and Ma Byrne (Lynsey-Anne Moffat). There are the sounds of waves hitting the shore as Ma sits on the bench and Moira stands stock still, silently staring into the middle distance. Ma sits and looks at her daughter wistfully and eventually starts to engage Moira in conversation.

It turns out that they’re on a pier by the sea somewhere in Northern Ireland and Ma (in dressing gown, pyjamas and slippers) is really worried about her scantily dressed daughter who must be cold and seems to have lost her cardigan (or is it a sweater?). In the beginning, the dialogue is quite banal but it steadily develops into the revelation that the two have quite a dysfunctional relationship with Moira-Bridget dependant on alcohol and Ma on the pills she keeps popping. Ma is not only concerned that her daughter is cold but also that she seems intent on jumping off the pier and committing suicide. All is not well in the Byrne household.

There are some lovely moments such as when the two of them bond over The Eagle’s song “Take It Easy” and underneath the bickering, there’s a genuine tenderness between the two characters as they dig deep into their relationship. Was Ma a good mother? Was Moira-Bridget a bad daughter? They touch on politics and religion as they’re Catholics living in Protestant Northern Ireland but these themes are not fully developed – the play is more about their relationship and their existential problems. It’s obvious that both characters are deeply flawed and have their own particular mental demons with both characters crying out for help. Can they repair their relationship? Can Ma save Moira-Bridget from herself or is it too late? Why are they both feeling such guilt?

Medicine is an interesting and absorbing story about the relationship between a mother and a daughter both of whom seem to have mental health issues. It’s tightly written and at just under an hour, engages the audience. Meghan Tyler and Lynsey-Anne Moffat are both superb and seem to have a genuine chemistry. There’s also a very short cameo at the end from Adam Best as Da Byrne but to explain his late arrival would spoil the play’s conclusion.

Medicine is tightly directed by Paul Brotherston aided and abetted by the diffused lighting from Will Alder and an excellent soundscape from Iida Aino.

Tyler also wrote the piece and it’s her debut as a writer. In the programme, it says that she suffered from depression as a teenager and what the impact of that had on her loved ones and I’m sure writing Medicine has been very cathartic for her. Tyler is a talented writer who in Medicine has written about something she knows well and it will be interesting to see what she comes up with in the future when she’s out of her comfort (or should that be discomfort?) zone.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

‘You’ll catch your death out here.’
‘Well I’m not here to catch a bus, am I?’

One howling night in Northern Ireland, Ma discovers Moira on the edge of Warrenpoint pier, full of cheap whiskey and desperate to end it all…

Is it too late to bring her daughter home?

MEDICINE is a quick-witted tragicomedy by the up-and-coming, award-winning playwright Meghan Tyler. This beautiful tale, set against the wild backdrop of the Irish sea, explores the primal bond between a mother and her daughter. Boldly funny and achingly sad, MEDICINE captures the uncompromising way our lives can become suffocated by the effects of mental illness.

Off The Middle are delighted to be returning to The Hope Theatre with MEDICINE after the critically claimed success of IN OTHER WORDS.

14 Aug – 1 Sept
The Hope Theatre


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